Image Credit: Apple
Calling the Apple Watch just a cooler, better smartwatch isn't the right way to look at this revolutionary device. Apple would hardly settle for that. Instead, the Apple Watch will so change people's lives that no other device on the wrist will do, and that will bring incredible success. I can make my case.
Out of the gate, there is this succinct analysis piece at Seeking Alpha by Mark Hibben. "Apple Watch: The Hidden Advantages." In that article, Mr. Hibben suggests, notably, that the decisive competitive advantages of the Apple Watch are currently hidden from the user.
The first issue that comes to mind is that depth and scope of any competitor's vision of how to build a smartwatch is very limited by the resources that a company can bring to bear. For example, if a company's forte is health tracking, that will be the focus of its smartwatch. Thinking that the job is done, the product is brought to market.
Apple, on the other hand, conceives its products in light of how a new device will fit in with Apple's current products, engineering resources, design expertise, and most importantly, its development tools. Mr. Hibben makes ample reference to this in terms of the iOS developer environment and tools like Xcode.
I think one of the reasons we get so excited about new Apple products is because so much engineering talent and expertise is integrated into them that we sit back and marvel at all the functionality harnessed by a beautiful and intuitive user interface and experience. That excitement for the future prospects of the Apple Watch is revealed here: "Google, Samsung can’t Top Apple’s Unreleased Apple Watch."
In great contrast to Apple's approach was the first tablet competitor to the Apple iPad from BlackBerry, the PlayBook. The shallowness of the corporate engineering resources and the immaturity of its tablet development tools led to what was a laughably incomplete competitor to the original iPad. That could happen to some Apple Watch competitors too.
Next page: But Wait! It's All About Fashion!
Page 2 - Apple Watch as a Fashion Item
Image Credit: Apple
In addition to the engineering resources Apple can bring to bear on a new product category is Apple's extraordinary sense of taste and balance. In the case of the Apple Watch, its inner technical workings, which we'll get very excited about, are wrapped in a fashionable design. That leads to a corresponding physical affection for the device that leverages the technology.
This means two things. First, Apple will take into account the idea that people buy what is essentially jewelry expecting it to last for a long time. And so, I predict, Apple will market the Apple watch as something to be respected, treasured and treated well. I don't expect Apple to come out with an Apple Watch G2 in 2016 that callously makes the first models obsolete. Even if it could do that, Apple will exercise too much restraint and taste to do that. As a result the Apple Watch will retain its values for years.
Secondly, competitors who seek to emphasize the fashion and luxury aspects of their competing smartwatches will find that customers will find their wares wanting. The competition's product, no matter how steeped it is in the tradition of, say, fine Swiss Watches, just won't be able to operate in the Apple ecosphere the way an Apple Watch does. The price to utility ratio will be too high.
For additional insight into that, see this article at Business Insider by Sam Colt. "Here's What People Don't Get About Apple Pay: It's Not Just Changing Payments." In that article, Mr. Colt points out that Apple Pay has elevated the Passbook app from obscurity to wild popularity. Now, the opportunity to invoke digital coupons, based on geolocation, integrated into Passbook with iBeacon will marry the merchant's ability to spark your interest in the same app where your credit card resides. This will be a big deal.
The Coup de Grâce
And that, finally, leads me to Apple Pay itself. The iPhone 6 has been an excellent proving ground for Apple Pay. But, still, fishing your iPhone out of a pocket or purse is barely better in one sense that pulling a credit card out of a wallet. Just wait until the cashier gasps for breath as the first Apple Watch users simply wave their arms at the sales terminal and the cash register rings up "PAID."
Other companies may be able to specialize in particular areas of expertise such as health tracking, ornamental designs or exotic Swiss movements, but no competitor will be able to put the whole package together the way Apple will. It's become a trite saying, but it's still true. The Apple Watch will be much more than the sum of its parts.
What other company can take stainless steel, sapphire, an ARM processor, a magnificent collection of wristbands, years of iOS software and security experience, low power management, elegant user interfaces, and smart integration into all the Apple technologies that have been refined (or are currently appearing like Apple Pay), derived from a mature Xcode development environment, and integrate them all into a work of art onto which tens of thousands of developers will eventually be unleashed?
Answer: no one at all.
Next page: the tech news debris for the week of December 15: The fate of Google and Netflix.
Page 3 - The Tech News Debris for the Week of December 15
Lots of ugly things are happening at Google. At Business Insider, Nicholas Carlson sizes up the competitive prospects of Google and constructs a sobering list of Google's current woes. "Google Is Going Through A Rough Transition — And There's Some Pessimism Around The Company." I am not surprised by this list because, for a long time, I've sensed a lack of direction at that company.
Most notably, Google has thrown out some apparently cool hardware to see what sticks in the market without a coherent vision of what it is trying to achieve. As with the preamble above, competitors to Apple who work without a solid foundation leading to a crisp vision for a better life for customers don't earn much respect in the marketplace. Add to that the subtle, insidious ways that Apple can undermine that ill-considered approach with its own products, and you can find a company thrashing about just a bit. By and by, we'll see if Google can recover.
On the subject of Google and search, will the Internet be wrecked by content creators who want to perfectly clamp down on the free Internet and search in order to defeat piracy? This is a scary but thoughtful article that, while long, is worth your time. "Project Goliath: Inside Hollywood's secret war against Google."
Back when Steve Jobs announced the iPhone in 2007, he announced that Apple's modest goal was to achieve a mere one percent of the mobile phone market by the end of 2008. I think that initial modesty led many to feel that the iPhone would forever be a small part of Apple's business. But let's put market share aside and look at how the iPhone fits into Apple's fiscal 2014 revenues. It's sobering.
Credit: Business Insider
Next page: The TV Industry Dilemma
Page 4 - What TV Viewers Want
What do people say when asked about their TV upgrade plans? This report from the UK tells us several things. "More than half of TVs sold are now smart." First, people like smart TVs. The desire for easier access to their favorite content is greater than the desire for expensive 4K/UHDTVs without a lot of content.
Another conclusion that one could draw from this report is that TV makers and content providers are a bit out of sync. That is, the agenda, politics and advertising of the content providers make it hard for the TV makers to provide a great overall experience. They tried with 3D and failed. In contrast, HDTVs that have, say, Netflix access built in are a crumb that TV makers can throw at us. This looks like a market ripe for disruption to me.
Speaking of Netflix, this next article follows the logic that eventually all content will be delivered directly to consumers. There won't be any need for networks or gatekeepers, even Netflix. The argument is compelling, and I like it. The only question is: how long will it take us to get there? "Curation kills: Why Netflix is just as doomed as cable in the long run."
Finally, we know, or think we know, that Intel blew its opportunity to be Apple's supplier of low-power CPUs for iPhones and iPads. Then came the 64-bit A7 processor, and that seemed to be the handwriting on the wall when it came to the notion of eventually replacing the Intel processors in MacBooks with future Apple A(x) processors.
Whenever this subject comes up, I pause at the idea of losing the ability to run Windows and Windows (Intel) binaries on a Mac in virtualization, but maybe the critical nature of that crossover is coming to an end. Still, Mark Reschke gives the idea another airing out that's worth pondering. "MacBook Air: Is An A9 Processor Apple's Next Big Thing?" Apple always seems to have an ace up its sleeve that solves old problems and create a new way forward.
Particle Debris will return in January, 2015.
Particle Debris is a generally a mix of John Martellaro's observations and opinions about a standout event or article of the week (preamble on page one) followed by a discussion of articles that didn't make the TMO headlines, the technical news debris. The column is published most every Friday except for holidays.